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Somebody Shoot at Me!

Ian Sansom: Woody Guthrie’s Novel, 9 May 2013

House of Earth: A Novel 
by Woody Guthrie.
Fourth Estate, 234 pp., £14.99, February 2013, 978 0 00 750985 0
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... of the American Dream: you don’t have to be Gramsci to recognise cultural hegemony at work here. Woody Guthrie wrote ‘This Land Is Your Land’ – originally titled ‘God Blessed America’ – in February 1940, in response to the sentiments of Irving Berlin’s ‘God Bless America’: Let us all be grateful for a land so fair, As we raise our ...

Franklin D, listen to me

J. Hoberman: Popular (Front) Songs, 17 September 1998

Songs for Political Action: Folk Music, Topical Songs and the American Left, 1926-53 
edited by Ronald Cohen and Dave Samuelson.
Bear Family Records, DM 390, June 1996
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... three artists who feature extensively in Songs for Political Action – the Dust Bowl troubadour Woody Guthrie, the cabaret bluesman Josh White and the self-invented folk bard Pete Seeger. The Oklahoma-born Guthrie, the most enduring of the three, was the culmination of those country protest singers – the Jim ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Bob Dylan’s Tall Tales, 21 October 2004

... the songs with their singer. As he wrote in the sleevenotes to The Times They Are A-Changin’, ‘Woody Guthrie was my last idol . . . because he . . . taught me/face to face/that men are men/shatterin’ even himself/as an idol.’ Or in Chronicles: a song ‘might vary in meaning and it might not appear the same from one moment to the next. It depends ...


Philip Horne and Danny Karlin: Million Dollar Bashers, 22 June 1989

... has been a driving force in his creative life. He recently contributed to an album commemorating Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly, both acknowledged precursors. Of Guthrie he has said: ‘There was a time when I did nothing but his songs. I mean ... he’s written so many (laughs). I knew them all. I was like a ...

That Wild Mercury Sound

Charles Nicholl: Dylan’s Decade, 1 December 2016

The Bootleg Series, Vol. 12: The Cutting Edge 1965-66 
by Bob Dylan.
Columbia, £60, November 2015
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... The album’s best-known track is ‘House of the Risin’ Sun’, a traditional song recorded by Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly among others, here performed in a version he learned from Dave van Ronk (the folk singer lightly fictionalised in the Coen Brothers’ film Inside Llewyn Davis). It’s a haunting song, and it came back to haunt him in the summer ...

Forget the Dylai Lama

Thomas Jones: Bob Dylan, 6 November 2003

Dylan's Visions of Sin 
by Christopher Ricks.
Viking, 517 pp., £25, October 2003, 9780670801336
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... any previous verses’ (it’s preceded by a harmonica solo, which also helps). And in ‘Song to Woody’, ‘the first time, the only time, then, that a rhyme has returned’ is in the last verse: ‘This is an arc completed, not a feeling vacated.’ ‘Rhymes and rhythms and cadences,’ Ricks writes, alluding to the album title Bringing It All Back ...

I don’t want your revolution

Marco Roth: Jonathan Lethem, 20 February 2014

Dissident Gardens 
by Jonathan Lethem.
Cape, 366 pp., £18.99, January 2014, 978 0 224 09395 8
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... Lincoln; Greenwich Village cafés of the 1950s and 1960s, full of the apostles and understudies of Woody Guthrie and Dave Von Ronk; quiz shows and sit-coms; the recently extinct chess clubs of MacDougal and Thompson Streets; the New York Mets. At its best, the collagist method captures historical moods with a powerful compactness: a late sequence manages ...


Scott Bradfield, 14 December 1995

Jim Thompson Omnibus: The Getaway, The Killer inside Me, The Grifters, Pop. 1280 
Picador, 570 pp., £7.99, November 1995, 3 303 34288 1Show More
Savage Art: A Biography of Jim Thompson 
by Robert Polito.
Knopf, 543 pp., $30, October 1995, 0 394 58407 4
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... to New York, hastily typed out some opening chapters and a plot summary, and with the help of Woody Guthrie, sold Now and on Earth in 1941. But despite a few good reviews – and two more books published over the next decade – Thompson didn’t hit his novelistic stride until the early Fifties. Again, in a burst of activity. Between September 1952 ...

Among the Bobcats

Mark Ford, 23 May 1991

The Dylan Companion 
edited by Elizabeth Thomson and David Gutman.
Macmillan, 338 pp., £10.99, April 1991, 0 333 49826 7
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Bob Dylan: Performing Artist. Vol. I: 1960-73 
by Paul Williams.
Xanadu, 310 pp., £14.99, February 1991, 1 85480 044 2
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Dylan: Behind the Shades 
by Clinton Heylin.
Viking, 528 pp., £16.99, May 1991, 0 670 83602 8
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The Bootleg Series: Vols I-III (rare and unreleased) 1961-1991 
by Bob Dylan.
Columbia, £24.95, April 1991
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... run away from home at 12; he’d joined a carnival, worked as a farmhand, had played out West with Woody Guthrie, with Gene Vincent, with Blind Lemon Jefferson ... He was soon even mythologising his own early days in New York, claiming to Shelton, who swallowed the story whole, that he spent his first two months in the big city hustling around Times ...


August Kleinzahler: My Last Big Road Trip, 2 December 2010

... cows. A hawk glides over the Boone Creek Baptist church. We’re crossing the Ozarks, listening to Woody Guthrie: Hitler wrote to Lindy, said ‘Do your very worst,’ Lindy started an outfit that he called America First In Washington, in Washington. We pull into the Super 8 in Springfield, Missouri. We ask the woman behind the desk if there’s a place ...

United States of Amnesia

Eric Foner, 9 September 2021

The Ground Breaking: The Tulsa Race Massacre and an American City’s Search for Justice 
by Scott Ellsworth.
Icon, 304 pp., £16.99, May 2021, 978 1 78578 727 0
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... an independent bookstore, restaurants and a museum celebrating the life of the (white) songwriter Woody Guthrie – harbingers, perhaps, of impending gentrification. It has also perhaps the only public space in the nation named for a Black historian, the John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park.Reconciliation, however, remains hard to come by. The Riot ...


Thomas Lynch, 21 March 1996

... parents would bail me out if I got too deep into trouble. So it wasn’t exactly like Kerouac or Woody Guthrie but I was, nonetheless, on the road. Or more precisely, flying the friendly skies. When I located my cousins Tommy and Nora Lynch – brother and sister, bachelor and spinster – they lived in a thatched house on the west coast of Clare, in ...

Blowing over the top of a bottle of San Pellegrino

Adam Mars-Jones: Protest Dance Pop, 15 December 2005

Plat du Jour 
by Matthew Herbert.
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... an opinionated troubadour. A folk instrument was required to channel the judgment of nature. When Woody Guthrie wrote a slogan on his guitar in the 1940s – ‘This Machine Kills Fascists’ – the really surprising word was ‘machine’. The piano, though acoustic, is not a folk instrument. Not being portable, it isn’t a free agent. It bespeaks the ...

A Short History of the Trump Family

Sidney Blumenthal: The First Family, 16 February 2017

... in 1927; he had Mob ties and flagrantly discriminated against blacks when renting out housing. Woody Guthrie, his most famous tenant, wrote about his landlord in the first literary work on a Trump, ‘Old Man Trump’:I supposeOld Man Trump knowsJust how muchRacial hatehe stirred upIn the bloodpot of human heartsWhen he drawedThat colour lineHere at ...

On the Brink

James Lever: Philip Roth, 28 January 2010

The Humbling 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 140 pp., £12.99, November 2009, 978 0 224 08793 3
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... return: ‘he imagined Pegeen having a healthy baby the very month that he opened at the Guthrie Theater in the role of James Tyrone … The stretch of bad luck was over.’ Axler is completely restored to himself and consults a specialist about the potential hazards of conceiving a child at his age. But Pegeen abruptly ends the affair. Axler’s new ...

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